Six Nations

Ireland pick side for Rome trip

2015-02-05 15:15
Joe Schmidt (Getty Images)

London - Sean O'Brien has been included in the Ireland starting side announced by coach Joe Schmidt on Thursday for the Six Nations opener away to Italy this weekend just days after returning to competitive action.

The British and Irish Lions flank is set to play his first Test since November 2013 when Ireland begin the defence of their Six Nations title in Rome on Saturday following two shoulder reconstruction operations.

But 14 months on the sidelines ended when the 27-year-old O'Brien played for the second-string Irish Wolfhounds against the England Saxons on January 30.

Now a shoulder injury to fellow back-row Jamie Heaslip has paved the way for the 30-times capped O'Brien to play for the full Ireland side for the first time since their heart-breaking 24-22 defeat by world champions New Zealand in November 2013.

Munster's Ian Keatley has won the nod to start at flyhalf instead of Ian Madigan, with first-choice stand-off Jonathan Sexton, now with Paris-based Racing Metro, currently ruled out after being ordered to rest under concussion protocols having suffered blows to the head in November.

New Zealand-born Jared Payne has been selected in midfield alongside Robbie Henshaw, with veteran centre Gordon D'Arcy failing to find a place at all in Kiwi boss Schmidt's matchday 23.

Payne and Henshaw were alongside each other in November when D'Arcy was injured and Ireland were without retired centre great Brian O'Driscoll.

Up front, tighthead prop Mike Ross remained Schmidt's only ever-present selection since becoming Ireland coach.

Veteran lock Paul O'Connell continues to captain the side in what will be Ireland's first Six Nations since O'Driscoll brought the curtain down on his brilliant career after the team clinched the title in Paris last year.

However, Ireland proved their was life after 'BOD' by winning all three of their recent November Tests, which included victories over South Africa (29-15) and Australia (26-23).

But their last visit to Rome saw Ireland suffer a shock 22-15 defeat by Italy in 2013.





15 Rob Kearney, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Jared Payne, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jordi Murphy, 7 Sean O'Brien, 6 Peter O'Mahony, 5 Paul O'Connell (captain), 4 Devin Toner, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best, 1 Jack McGrath

Substitutes: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 James Cronin, 18 Martin Moore, 19 Iain Henderson, 20 Tommy O'Donnell, 21 Isaac Boss, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Felix Jones

Read more on:    ireland  |  italy  |  six nations  |  joe schmidt  |  rugby

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